John Chaney, Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame Coach and Temple Legend, Dies at 89

Temple legend John Chaney, a pioneer for Black basketball coaches, passed away on Friday at 89 years old.

The Philadelphia Inquirer's Mike Jensen first reported the news of Chaney's passing, which Dana O’Neil of The Athletic confirmed. Temple announced he passed away late Friday morning "after a short illness."

"John Chaney was a great coach, but he was so much more. For generations of students, he was a wise counselor, a dedicated teacher, an icon of success, and a passionate leader who always led by example and with conviction," said Temple President Richard M. Englert, who knew Chaney since he came to Temple in 1982. "I am also honored to say he was a dear friend.

"For generations of his players, there is only one man whom they all lovingly called Coach even to this day. That was John Chaney. Our most sincere condolences go out to his wonderful family members. We will keep them all in our prayers."

The Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame coach is best known for his 24 years at the helm of the Owls' basketball program. Chaney led the program to 17 NCAA tournaments and five NCAA regional finals.

Before he joined the program, Temple had never made it to back-to-back national tournaments. They went to five straight from 1984 to 1988 and 12 straight from 1990 to 2001. The 1987–88 team finished the season ranked No. 1 overall.

Chaney was a two-time USBWA National Coach of the Year (1987, ’88) and won the 1978 NCAA Division II national championship at Cheyney University.

"Coach Chaney was like a father to me," said current Temple men's basketball coach Aaron McKie. "He taught not just me, but all of his players more than just how to succeed in basketball. He taught us life lessons to make us better individuals off the court. I owe so much to him. He made me the man I am today." 

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He was admired for his work ethic as he developed a nationally competitive team, but he also faced criticism for his sometimes unsportsmanlike, passionate outbursts. 

Born in 1932, Chaney grew up during an era of legally sanctioned racism. One of his top priorities throughout his years as a coach, mentor and leader was to help provide a means to higher education for low-income youth.

This past June, Chaney told the Philadelphia Inquirer how he remembered his mom ushering them to hide under the bed due to a burning cross nearby, and that he saw hope as protests currently swept the nation by storm.

“The people who are saving this society from being a complete disaster are young people,” the 88-year-old said to Jensen. “They’re out in the streets. That’s bravery. That’s bravery at its best. We have some of the most brave students and young people, who will fight to possibly their death because of this pandemic.”

He told Jensen how seeing white faces in the Black Lives Matter protests made him emotional.

“I used to say to my players, you will never ever be winners in this game until you can see yourself in others,” Chaney said. “You must see yourself in others. You must understand others. You must have empathy.”

Fans, reporters and players took to Twitter to honor the coach.

"I’m so saddened to hear that we have lost John Chaney, a coaching icon, a Hall of Famer, a molder of young men, the ultimate competitor and a dear friend," Kentucky head coach John Calipari tweeted. "Being able to compete against the best at a young age gave me a great opportunity to grown and learn."